Belinda Bencic defeated Naomi Osaka for the third time in a row in 2019, ending the Japanese’s US Open title defense and her reign at the top of the WTA rankings.
Bencic entered Monday’s fourth-round match against Osaka as a player with more victories over Top 5 and Top 10 players than anyone else on tour this season and the Swiss earned her sixth Top 5 win in 2019 by knocking out top-seeded Osaka 7-5 6-4.
The 21-year-old Osaka, who won her maiden Grand Slam title by storming past Serena Williams in last year’s final, saved four break points to avoid going 3-0 down early in the encounter with Bencic. The defending champion clawed back from the unfavorable situation to get the set back on serve and lead 3-2. Not allowing herself to be discouraged by missing the opportunity for an early double-break lead, Bencic stepped up her game late in the first set, broke Osaka’s serve for the second time and it was enough for the 13th seed to establish a one set lead.
In the second set, Osaka didn’t earn a single break point opportunity, while she double-faulted to gift Bencic a break that turned out to be crucial for the 22-year-old, who took the final game of the match with a love hold.
To keep her No.1 ranking, Osaka needed to defend her title. Since she lost in the fourth round, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty will for the second time in her career get the WTA top spot.
Bencic has now equaled her career-best result at a Grand Slam –– as a 17-year-old she reached the quarterfinals of the 2014 US Open, becoming the youngest player through to last eight at Flushing Meadows since 1997 when her compatriot Martina Hingis won the title.
Next up for Bencic will be Croatian seed No.23 Donna Vekic, who is through to the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time after saving a match point to beat Germany’s 26th seed Julia Gorges 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 43 minutes. Bencic and Vekic played each other once this season, also at a Grand Slam stage, when Vekic won 6-4 6-1 in the third round of the French Open.